Topless Femen activists protest religious conference, claim they were victims of violence

Femen is a feminist protest group that was founded in the Ukraine in 2008, is now based in Paris, and has made a name for itself through protests organized against institutions and practices the group deems a threat to womankind. “Our main enemy is patriarchy and its three manifestations – dictatorship, religion and the sex industry,”  founder member and spokesperson Alexandra Shevchenko told the Guardian in 2013. The group has become known for their topless protests, which Shevenko describes as “sextremism to protect women’s rights.”

However, this week the group was under even more fire than usual. No strangers to backlash—members of Femen have been arrested repeatedly for topless protests but this time was different. This time, the women claim they were victims of violence during their protest.

As the Telegraph reports, two Femen activits, ages 25 and 31, stormed the stage during Salon Musulman, a conference held near Paris centered around the role of Muslim women. During a discussion conducted by two imams about “Women’s valuation in Islam,” the still-unnamed Femen protesters rushed the stage, threw off their tops, grabbed the mikes, and began preaching feminist creed in both French and Arabic. One woman had the words “No one subjugates me,” written on her torso in French, the other woman similarly sported the phrase “I am my own prophet.” The pair were later arrested, but not before they were removed from the stage and, they claim. subjected to both verbal and physical abuse.

Inna Shevchenko, another spokeswoman for Femen, told the Telegraph that the male crowd shouted threats at the women, screaming that the protesters were “dirty whores” and calling for their deaths. Fifteen men rushed the stage to remove the protesters and hand them over to the police. Video footage also seems to show the men kicking one of the women when she falls down while being removed from the stage.

Inna Shevchenko took to Twitter to point out the discrepancy in what was being practiced and preached.

She went on to clarify her views and Femen’s mission:

Meanwhile, conference organizers declared in a Facebook post that they were “the victim of an anti-Muslim media frenzy” and said they planned to press charges against the activists. Femen activists also took to Facebook to make their own statement. In it, they echoed the sentiment that was written across their chests. “No one can enslave me, no one can possess me, I am my own prophet!”

Related reading:

A history of topless protests (and why they matter)

The recent rise of nudist feminism

(Image via Twitter)

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